Review Of Nigerian Football In 2013

The year, 2013 has been severally described by many as one of the best in Nigerian football history Against all expectations, the country's senior national team, the Super Eagles began the year on a flyer by winning the Africa Cup of Nations Cup title in South Africa The team built on that momentum to qualify for the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil later in the year Successes were also recorded at junior level as the U20 team, the Flying Eagles qualified for the World Cup after finishing in third place at the African Youth Championships in Algeria The biggest winners were the U17s following their dominant displays at the World Cup in the United Arab Emirates Astonishingly, the all-conquering Golden Eaglets did not win the African title as they came up short in the final against the Ivory Coast, a side they lost to via the lotteries of penalties Domestically, Kano Pillars and Enyimba continued to throw their weight about as supersport com now rounds up the biggest stories of a dramatic year in Nigerian football January Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) club, Dolphins raised a few eyebrows when they announced that an Egyptian goalkeeper, Awgad Magd would play for them in the new season The goalkeeper said at the time that he was looking forward to the challenge 'My manager told me about Dolphins and Nigeria and said it was okay and I decided to come because Dolphins is a very big name in Egypt so it wasn't long before I accepted after speaking with the coach, Stanley (Eguma),' Magd said He never played a competitive game for Dolphins as he left the country soon after The Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in South Africa but before then, Nigerians were left to contemplate a blackout of the matches on terrestrial television The Confederation of African Football (Caf) blamed the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (Bon) for the situation accusing it of making a 'ridiculous offer' for the rights to beam the games live via terrestrial television Caf's Secretary General, Hicham El Amrani said they were not ready to bend its rules in favour of any member nation Bon was negotiating to pay $1 5 million for the television rights but LC2 (owners of the television rights) initially asked for eight million Euros which it later cut down to 4 5 million Euros 'We cannot sell to someone who wants to buy at 20 times less than the usual price, we cannot do this otherwise we will have to close our doors We cannot survive if we do not sustain the minimum value of our television rights,' El Amrani said On their part, Bon's Director General, Abubakar Jijiwa said, they were well within their rights to stand their ground 'Some shylock individuals come into Nigeria brandishing rights documents to us and forcing Broadcasters to accept such rights hook line and sinker without recourse to the real economics of those rights In other words, we are not averse to buying rights from any individual or groups Those rights must be economically beneficial to our member stations,' he said On the pitch, the Super Eagles began their quest for their third Afcon title following successes in 1980 and 1994 The Super Eagles started in unconvincing fashion with a 1-1 draw against Burkina Faso-the team they would go on to meet in the final-in Mbombela on January 21 Another draw against champions, Zambia four days later did little to raise the spirits of the home faithful before a nervy 2-0 win against lowly Ethiopia in the team's final preliminary game temporarily quelled dissenting voices All the while, there were rumours of infighting, player unrest and officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) moving towards a collision path with the head coach of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi February The furore generated by the conflict over Broadcast rights in January was eventually doused this month A deal was eventually struck and the final was beamed live to millions of Nigerians It was quite as well because the Super Eagles surprised many by emerging champions at the 2013 Afcon in South Africa despite their slow start to the competition Finishing in second place in Group C meant the Super Eagles would have to face the star-studded Ivory Coast inspired by Chelsea legend, Didier Legend The Nigerians however showed no fear as they played arguably their best game of the tournament to topple the Ivoirians before proceeding to thrash Mali 4-1 in the semi finals A nervy 1-0 win over Burkina Faso was recorded in the final at the National Stadium, Johannesburg on February 10 A day after leading the Super Eagles to the tile, Keshi did the unthinkable and tendered his resignation He told Robert Marawa on Metro FM that: 'I did what I feel is right by resigning I gave the NFF a letter last night [Sunday, February 10] after the celebrations ' Keshi was never going to be allowed to leave The Presidency intervened and his resignation was rescinded March Nigeria was drawn in Group B of the African U-20 championship alongside Mali, Gabon and Congo DR and as always, hopes were high that the Flying Eagles would emerge victorious in the competition held in Algeria John Obuh's wards finished as runners up in the group behind Mali to set up a semi final showdown with Egypt in Aïn Témouchent The Young Pharaohs comprehensively outclassed the Flying Eagles 2-0 but the minimum requirement-a ticket to the U-20 World Cup finals in Turkey-had already been achieved A 2-1 win over Mali in the third place game did little to calm frayed nerves but Obuh and his youngsters would have another chance to redeem themselves at the World Cup later in the year The Super Eagles also resumed their quest to qualify for the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil as the penultimate round of qualifiers entered match day three across the African continent A lackluster performance against Kenya almost ended in disaster until Nnamdi Oduamadi pinched a last minute equalizer against the Harambee Stars in the 1-1 draw at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar The Super Eagles would need to improve rapidly if they were to make it to Brazil April There was depressing news for Nigerian champions, Kano Pillars as they crashed out of the Caf Champions League after drawing 4-4 over two legs with Congolese club, AC Leopards Pillars won the first leg by a crushing 4-1 score but capitulated badly in the second leg as they crashed out on the away goals rule after a 0-3 defeat to the Leopards at the Stade Denis Sassou Nguesso, Dolisie The country's second representatives in the competition, Enugu Rangers had better luck in the second round, overcoming Burundian club, Vital'O 2-0 over two legs Nigeria's U17 footballers arrived in Morocco for the African U-17 championship and hopes were high of success with Manu Garba assembling a hugely talented squad Nigeria however courted controversy shortly before the tournament as three players that were supposed to play in the tournament, Wilfred Ndidi, Ibrahim Abdullahi and Emmanuel Asadu failed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests which meant that they were ineligible to compete The Golden Eagles overcame this setback as they began the tournament on a flyer; storming to the top of Group B on the back of two huge wins against Ghana and Congo in which the side scored 13 goals and conceded just one Two players, Success Isaac and Kelechi Iheanacho stood out from the bunch of talented Nigerian youngsters as they scored four goals apiece in the group stages A routine 4-2 win over Tunisia in the semi finals set up a final date with the only side that had defeated the high-flying Eaglets in the tournament, the Ivory Coast The game ended in a 1-1 draw after extra time which meant the trophy would be decided via the lottery of penalties Chidiebere Nwakali was the unfortunate one to miss from 12 yards durimg the shoot out as the Ivoirians celebrated an unlikely triumph In the Caf Confederations Cup, Lobi Stars were scandalously beaten 7-1 by Mozambican club, Liga Muçulmana in the second leg of their first round clash Lobi Stars had won the first leg 3-1 but it was rendered purely academic following the heavy beating they suffered in the return fixture in Matola The country's other flag bearer, Heartland also failed to advance to the second round in very dramatic circumstances Heartland defeated Gabonese club, US Bitam 2-1 in the first leg of their first round encounter at the Dan Anyiam stadium, Owerri Financial problems astonishingly meant the Nigerian Cup champions failed to travel on time to Gabon for the return fixture They were duly walked over by the gleeful Gabonese and the Naze Millionaires' aspirations of becoming the first Nigerian club to win the Caf Confederation Cup went out like a light May The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) decided to throw out Sharks and Dolphins, representatives of Rivers State in the 2013 Federation Cup out of the oldest football competition in the country A release made available to supersort com by the NFF made it clear that both clubs would be barred from taking part as the Rivers State Football association (home federation of the two clubs) did not adhere to the regulations regarding the preliminaries of the competition 'The 2013 preliminary matches of the Federation Cup were officiated by unqualified /registered referees This therefore means that no preliminary matches were played in the state in accordance with the rules and regulations governing the competition,' the release signed by Mohammed Sanusi, Director of competitions NFF organizing committee read The NFF remarkably made a dramatic detour from its earlier decision a few days later following a hastily launched appeal by the Rivers State Football Association The NFF ruled then ruled that matches in the 2013 Rivers State Federation Cup be replayed from the semi final stages with the finalists expected to be accommodated in the draws of the 2013 Federation Cup A fine of N500,000 00 (about $3,164 USD) was paid by the Rivers FA before the round of 64 stages of the national competition Nigeria's underwhelming display in continental competition was underlined with Enugu Rangers crashing out of the Caf Champions League in the second round following a 1-3 aggregate loss to Angolan club, Recreativo de Libolo Rangers would however have a chance to redeem themselves on the continent as they dropped down to the second-tier Caf Confederation Cup June The Super Eagles continued in their quest to reach the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil with two successive away fixtures in a space of eight days against Kenya in Nairobi and Namibia in Windhoek A 1-0 win in Nairobi and a 1-1 draw in Windhoek set the tone for the team's expedition to Brazil where they were billed to compete at the Fifa Confederations Cup The team's participation in the tournament however hung by a thread as the players initially refused to travel to Brazil following a row with the NFF over bonuses For the second time in four months, intervention from external sources saved the day as Nigerian football returned to the dark ages At the tournament in Brazil, a 6-1 opening day win over Tahiti in the Eagles' first preliminary game raised hopes of unlikely success before subsequent defeats to Uruguay and Spain put the West Africans firmly in their place In the Caf Confederation Cup, Enugu Rangers defeated Tunisian club, CS Sfaxien 1-0 over two legs in the playoffs to advance to the group stages of the competition but that was not the end of the story Nigeria's U20 team, the Flying Eagles commenced their World Cup campaign in Turkey and knew they had their work cut out against Portugal, South Korea and Cuba in Group B An opening day 2-3 loss to Portugal briefly raised spirits especially with skipper, Abduljelil Ajagun impressing and netting a brace against the Iberians in Kayseri Straightforward wins over Cuba and South Korea meant the Flying Eagles finished as runners up in the Group behind the powerful Portuguese that stunned them in their opening fixture July Enugu Rangers were thrown out of the Caf Confederation Cup by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) despite beating CS Sfaxien over two legs in the playoffs the previous month Daniel Emmanuel, a goalkeeper, had just joined Rangers from Shooting Stars SC and played against the Sfax club before getting the proper registration for the season and a Shooting Stars complaint over the same spurred CAF into action, finding him ineligible That was that, as far as Rangers and Nigeria's foray into the continent was concerned A disappointing year in that regard was complete Former Super Eagles man, Finidi George was appointed youth team coach of Spanish Club, Real Mallorca Back in Turkey, Nigeria's Flying Eagles were preparing for their round of 16 exertions against Uruguay John Obuh's men had flattered to deceive all tournament long and the South Americans eventually put them out of their misery with a 2-1 defeat at the Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul Obuh knew his time was up and duly tendered his resignation as U20 coach Nigeria had never previously qualified for the African Nations Championship (Chan) but impossible does not exist in the vocabulary of Stephen Keshi who had previously shown great trust in local talent Keshi had caused national outrage when he included six relatively inexperienced players from the Nigerian league to the 2013 Afcon but was eventually justified with one of the local heroes, Sunday Mba netting the winner in the final against Burkina Faso after previously performing the same trick against the Ivory Coast in the quarter final 'Th Big Boss' as Keshi is fondly called had built a powerful squad that had just one more hurdle to cross before reaching their first Chan in South A frica That obstacle came in the shape of the Ivory Coast At the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna, a confident attacking display gave Nigeria a 4-1 win over the Elephants who bounced back to win the second leg 2-0 The defeat in that reverse fixture counted for nothing Keshi has masterminded another success; Nigeria was going to the Chan for the very first time August The Super Eagles were involved in the Nelson Mandela challenge in a relatively quiet month Uche Nwofor's brace gave the African champions a 2-0 victory over South Africa's Bafana at the Moses Mahbida stadium in Durban It was the month when the transfer window closed for the summer in Europe and Nigerian footballers were fully involved as the revolving doors in the market eventually slammed shut Emmanuel Emenike had begun the season on fire with Spartak Moscow in Russia with three league goals to his name in the opening month in the Premier League but he completed a €13m switch to Turkish giants, Fenerbahce Peter Odemwingie also ended his ordeal at the Hawthorns as he swapped West Bromwich Albion for Cardiff City Victor Anichebe incidentally moved to West Brom from Everton while Victor Moses was surprisingly loaned out by the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho with his good friend, Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool emerging as the benefactors September Former Premier League referee, Mark Halsey sensationally revealed this month that Nigerian midfielder, John Mikel Obi tried to physically assault referee, Mark Clattenburg after a controversial Premier League game between Manchester United and Chelsea on October 28, 2012 at Stamford Bridge "My information was that Mikel stormed into Mark's dressing room when he was told about the remark after the game, shouting 'I'm going to break your legs You called me a f**king monkey,' Halsey wrote in his autobiography "(Mikel) tried to land a punch on Mark but was pulled away by a combination of then Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo and assistant Eddie Newton and Mark's three fellow officials," Halsey added said The Chelsea midfielder was to make the headlines for the right reason later this month when he scored his first ever Premier League goal, a scrambled finish from a corner against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on September 21 He had previously failed to get off the mark in 184 previous league appearances for the club Keshi continued to do good things with the Super Eagles as he masterminded a 2-0 success over Malawi in Calabar as the African champions sealed their place in the African zone 2014 Fifa World Cup playoffs The NFF made the headlines for the wrong reasons when they failed to send a delegate to Cairo for the playoff draws Delegates from all other nine nations that qualified for the playoffs were present at the draw venue in Cairo but Nigeria was not represented at the event The NFF through its general secretary, Musa Amadu attempted to provide an explanation over anomaly 'I have no idea (why there was no Nigerian delegate at the draws) because we had a member who went for a Caf committee meeting (in Cairo) I cannot give you names now We expected that somebody would be there to wait for the draws,' Amadu said It was an explanation which many were unwilling to accept though Enyimba won the 2013 Federation Cup title after overcoming Warri Wolves 5-4 on penalties at the Teslim Balogub Stadium, Lagos The two sides had battled to an exhilarating 2-2 draw after extra time and so it was down to the lotteries of spot kicks to decide the winner October The Nigeria Professional Football league (NPFL) came to a dramatic finale with Kano Pillars retaining the title they won the previous season Only two points separated the champions from the third placed side as fans were teated to a photo finish Pillars ended the season at the summit with 63 points from 38 matches Enyimba finished in second place, one point behind the champions while Bayelsa United came third with 61 points from 38 matches The four sides that finished in the last four places, Kwara United, ABS, Wikki Tourists and 3SC were all relegated It was crunch time in World Cup qualifying and Addis Ababa was the place to be on October 13 where the Walya Ibex welcome the Super Eagles for the first leg of their playoff double header Ethiopia were left to rue missed goal scoring opportunities and dodgy refereeing decision as the African champions shook off a lethargic first half display to win 2-1 with powerful striker, Emmanuel Emenike claiming both of Nigeria's goals Nigeria's U17 footballers began their quest for a 4th world title and were drawn in Group F against Mexico, Sweden and Iraq in the preliminaries A dominant display against champions from the previous edition, Mexico ended with the Golden Eaglets recording an earth-shaking 6-1 win at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, Al Ain Kelechi Iheanacho, who went on to be named best player in the tournament, helped himself to four goals against the shell-shocked Mexicans A surprise 3-3 draw against Sweden in their second game merely represented a temporary blip as the expansive-playing Nigerians roared back to reckoning with a classy 5-0 win over Iraq in their final group game The Golden Eaglets ended the month in emphatic fashion as they sealed their place in the quarter finals of the competition with a 4-1 win over Iran in Al Ain in a one-side round of 16 clash November Nigeria qualified for the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals with a straightforward 2-0 victory over Ethiopia in Calabar It was the fifth time Nigeria's flag would be hoisted amongst the congregation of the finest football nations in the world following previous appearances in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010 The Golden Eaglets meanwhile continued their single-minded push for the title in the UAE and a fine 2-0 quarter final win over Uruguay set the stage for an even more comprehensive 3-0 victory over Sweden in the semi finals Mexico stood between the Nigerians and the title but hugely talented Nigerian youngsters were never going to be denied and the 3-0 win recorded in Abu Dhabi was expected by more than a few Enyimba gained some measure of revenge over by beating Kano Pillars 2-0 in the Charity Shield in Warri A few days earlier, Mohammed Baba Ganaru, the man who led Pillars to successive league titles, stunned all by announcing that he was quitting his post as head coach of the NPFL champions He joined another NPFL club, Nasarawa United a few days after he announced his decision to quit Sai Masu Gida December Nigeria' Super Sand Eagles (beach footballers) showed their supremacy in beach soccer as they won all their matches of the 2013 Copa Lagos Beach Soccer Championship In the last match played at the Eko Atlantic Beach, Victoria Island, the Nigerian team defeated Senegal 4-2 with goals from Badmus Babatunde, Abu Azeez, Victor Talle and Ogbonna Emeka to successfully defended the title they won in 2012 Former Super Eagles defender, Sam Sodje did not cover himself in glory as it was revealed that he was investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) over a fresh series of match-fixing allegations This was after claims that the 34-year-old said he could influence games in return for cash Authoritative British newspaper, the Sun reports that Sodje allegedly boasted that he could control events such as bookings It is also alleged that Sodje punched an opponent in the groin to get sent off and receive a bung of £70,000 The incident allegedly occurred when he was playing for Portsmouth against Oldham Athletic in February, 2013 Sam allegedly showed footage of himself hitting Oldham's Jose Baxter and told the undercover reporter: "OK listen This is when I was playing Do you know how much I got for that? £70k Do you know how much I got fined? I got fined ten grand and I missed six games Sam explained that he took the action to force the referee to send him off The draws for the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil was completed with Nigeria drawn in Group F alongside Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran Keshi, as always was in upbeat mood after the draws were conducted 'Argentina versus Nigeria is something that is becoming a recurring decimal We keep playing against them at every World Cup It's good We will see how it goes this time,' he said immediately after the draw ceremony held in Costa do Sauipe, Salvador Keshi however confessed knowing little about the group's two other sides, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran 'Not knowing Bosnia is a difficult thing but they are a good side I think I've seen them once or twice on television 'Iran? I've never seen them For them to be here means they are a good team,' he added SUPERSPORT